The legendary box office bomb Batman & Robin was released 20 years ago today on 12th June 1997.
This film came off the back of the poorly received Batman Forever in which Val Kilmer had donned the cowl with the difficult job of following up the excellent Michael Keaton. Now just one movie later, Kilmer had left the Bat-cave and a new actor was going to have to live up to the challenge of taking on the dark, brutal and complex character that is Batman.
In what is now one of the most miscast roles in cinematic history, George Clooney was chosen to be Batman.
It’s worth noting that Clooney himself recognises just how bad the film was and how bad he is in it, having spoken about it sparingly over the past couple of decades. It’s also fair to say that he wasn’t the only poor casting choice. Uma Thurman, who not long beforehand had picked up an Oscar nomination for her role in Pulp Fiction, somehow ended up playing antagonist Poison Ivy and her comically over-the-top performance butchered what could have been an interesting character. Also, who could forget Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr Freeze. As quotable as Arnie was, with almost every one of his lines some sort of cold related pun, the character was more of a joke than the intimidating smart villain we were expecting. After all, what killed the dinosaurs?
The film consists of some laugh out loud ridiculous moments that live long in the memory for all the wrong reasons. A few that come to mind are: Poison Ivy dancing in a giant monkey suit, Batman’s credit card being valid “forever”, Robin’s “rubber lips” and Mr Freeze forcing his henchmen to sing Christmas carols with him. Yep, that really happened in the movie.
It’s important to remember as well that this film was essentially made to sell toys. Years after the film’s release, director Joel Schumacher, who also helmed Batman Forever, admitted that the reason for our heroes having so many costumes and vehicles throughout the duration of the movie, was so the film would be more toyetic. This fact however does clear up why there were such awful designs for the Bat-mobile and Bat-suits. Though it still doesn’t explain the Bat-nipples…
However, for all its flaws, we actually have a lot to thank Batman & Robin for. It’s arguable that had the Batman franchise not fallen so far from grace, Warner Bros would not have allowed Christopher Nolan the total creative freedom required when producing his excellent Dark Knight trilogy. Had Batman & Robin been any better received, we may have still been viewing the Schumacher-verse today.
Overall, Batman & Robin is a great film to watch if you’re just in the mood to roast something. Other than that, it really is a terrible movie that stands as the perfect example of how you don’t make a Batman film.
Hopefully we’ll rarely ever have to write about Batman & Robin, but just in case you’re interested, check out the trailer below: